Busy: The New Four Letter Word

Last week, I spent six days in Mexico in a remote area with twelve semi-strangers and a trickle of Wi-Fi. This was my first real vacation, not attached to a work trip, in over four years (yes, I’m working on it).  It was a step outside of my comfort zone – no five star hotels, pools with swim up bars and restaurants in walking distance. Our days were filled with yoga, dips in the ocean and creative approaches to entertainment without connectivity. To say I was triggered was an understatement. I’ve learned recently that although I have extrovert tendencies, I really enjoy being by myself. This proved to be a huge challenge when sharing a room and having limited space to be quiet and reflect.

On Saturday, a group of us headed back to the airport to return to our modern comforts. I have never been so happy to feel air conditioning. Four of us were on the same flight to Houston with a tight connection through customs. We sprinted, sweated and prayed we’d make our flight. Upon approach to our gate, we noticed we were delayed an hour. Rather than get annoyed, we took it as the perfect opportunity to eat non-Mexican food and have a glass of wine. In our hour of delay, we realized that if we hadn’t had that time at the airport, we wouldn’t have set a plan to stay connected in our busy lives back in DC. So we exchanged information and committed to getting together soon after life calmed down.

We said our second goodbyes and boarded our flights. I sat down in my glorious window seat eager to close my eyes and catch up on much needed sleep (FYI - it is next to impossible to sleep with 120% humidity, no AC, and mating sounds of lizards and birds). A woman sat down next to me and I smiled and jokingly asked if she thought we’d really be leaving in 10 minutes. Turns out she was a flight attendant. I thought we would exchange pleasantries and be on our solo movie watching way, but instead we dove full on into our thoughts on love, relationships, friendships, conflict, and jobs. Then she said something that made the hair on my neck stick straight up, “I’m too busy for some people.”

There it was again…. “BUSY.” A seemingly innocent four letter word, but underneath a loaded bomb on passive aggressive energy. I stopped her. “What does that really mean?” She paused and thought for a minute. “Well, it means that some people are not a priority or worth my time.”

So what does being busy really mean? For me it says, I have a priority that is worth more of my time than another person or priority. If I don’t find the time, it wasn’t actually worth it. Then I dug in a bit more. How much are effort are we putting in to seem busy? Are we being busy or giving ourselves the excuse to not engage in areas that aren’t important to us?

If I ask someone to brunch for example and they say “I’m busy” and don’t offer an alternate date, you better believe I’m not barking up the same tree again. On the flip side, how many times have I responded with “I’ve been busy” when someone has asked what I’ve been up to.  Looking back on it, it feels very dismissive. It shut down discussion and curiosity. Here was someone genuinely interested in what was going on in my life and I summarized it in three words. What a missed opportunity!

I can’t say that I will full eliminate the word, busy, but I will be more intentional in its use or perceived interpretation. I will elaborate and explain my competing priorities when needed. I will be honest and up front about my limited time. Even with a full schedule, I will always make time for those important people in my life.

So the next time, you say you’re busy, ask yourself if it’s worth making the time or not.